ST PETERSBURG— I think it's safe to say that Kevin Kiermaier made up for last night's horrendous baserunning error with a huge game this Wednesday for the Rays. Winning 8-1 over the Los Angeles Dodgers in front of a jam-packed crowd of 12,826 (Such a Joke), the Rays played a very clean baseball game with great baserunning, good defense, and timely hitting. The Dodgers, on the other hand, did not play a clean game — as a matter of fact, they played horribly. The only bright spot was Rich Hill, the southpaw who delivered another quality start going 6 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K's. The offense was nowhere to be found tonight as LA only assembled 5 hits through 9 innings, one of them being a Max Muncy homerun in the 6th inning. The Rays went the "opener" route for the second straight game as Ryne Stanek took the hill tonight. Not going to lie, this is probably the second or third time I've seen the guy pitch, and wow, he has an absolutely electric fastball. The former first-round pick out of the University of Arkansas pitched 1.2 IP of no run ball tonight, and he picked up a big strikeout on a 99 MPH fastball that he blew by Cody Bellinger in the first inning to stop an early Dodgers scoring threat. Tampa took an early 1-0 lead in the 4th inning on a Tommy Pham opposite field home run (the umpire went blind during the at-bat). In the 6th inning, Max Muncy crushed a 420 foot home run to straight center off of Yonny Chirinos to tie the game before all hell broke loose in the 7th inning. Kevin Kiermaier had the play of the game tonight with his cannon-like throw as Cody Bellinger was gunned down trying to score in the 6th inning to keep the game tied. To the Rays credit, they scorched the Los Angeles bullpen (how many times have we heard that) tacking on 7 runs off of Dylan Floro and Caleb Ferguson as both gave up 3-run home runs to put the game out of reach. I mean it's only May 22nd but how many times have we seen the Dodgers bullpen blow games? Hello, it's not even summer yet. Now I refuse to panic too much about this. This team has some options as the season goes on to fix the bullpen (ahem Craig Kimbrel), but it's very scary how much of a glaring problem this already is. The Dodgers travel to Pittsburgh on Friday night for a three-game series. Let's see if the bullpen and offense redeem themselves.
ST. PETERSBURG— On April 17, everybody in baseball was very curious how long the Tampa Bay Rays would be on top of the American League East standings after an unexpected 14-4 start out of the gate. But boy, have they come back to planet earth fast as they fell 7-3 to the Dodgers in another sloppy game. The weekend series at Yankee Stadium was pretty rough as they lost 2 out of 3, and in the series finale, 13-5 as the bullpen is already showing signs of tiredness before the dog days of summer even start. Since April 17, the Rays have been mediocre and are now 13-14 since the great start. The immortal Clayton Kershaw pitched at Tropicana Field for the first time in his career and did not disappoint until the 7th inning, if you want to be a negative Nancy. Kershaw’s final line: 6.1 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 8 K. This is a pretty good night right? He confused Tampa’s hitters all night with his slider, inducing soft contact, and then right when they thought they had him, BOOM dropped the patented Kershaw curveball for strike 3. Many hitters shook their heads as they walked back to the dugout last night, probably thinking "How did I miss that?" or "I was sitting on that and still couldn't hit it!" But that's what happens when Kershaw is on his game. The Dodgers scored in the 1st inning after a single from Justin Turner that scored Max Muncy from first base after a fielding blunder from rightfielder Avisail Garcia when the ball went underneath his glove as he was busy looking at the runner. Los Angeles produced a 6-0 lead going into the bottom of the seventh before the Rays surged to score 3 runs on Kershaw, Pedro Baez (he left after getting hit with a line drive straight to the knee), and Scott Alexander. Rays centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier hit a hot shot line drive to the opposite field in the 8th inning for an easy double, but the former Golden Glove outfielder tried to stretch it for a triple and was thrown out by Alex Verdugo with a laser throw. That is literally the epitome of sloppy baseball and not what you need when your team is struggling. Los Angeles added another run off Rays’ lefty Adam Kolarek to make it 7-3, and Kenley Jansen shut the door even though it was not a save situation. The Rays have 34 games in 34 days and 47 in 48 before they hit the All-Star break. With the injury to ace Tyler Glassnow, the lack of power hitting and starting pitching is already starting to rear its ugly head. It's a long season, but you don't want to fall apart already this quickly into the season after such a great start.